Marketing focus

Major change at TVOMarketing and advertising have become watchwords at TVOntario as the provincial broadcaster learns to cope with shrinking government funding and the certainty of direct broadcast satellites and more specialty services.As proof of its commitment to the diciplines, tvo...

Major change at TVO

Marketing and advertising have become watchwords at TVOntario as the provincial broadcaster learns to cope with shrinking government funding and the certainty of direct broadcast satellites and more specialty services.

As proof of its commitment to the diciplines, tvo recently formed a new top-level marketing post, executive director of marketing and development, which it is actively searching to fill.

Diana Bennett Gale, managing director of corporate affairs at tvo, says the yet-to-be-named marketer will be charged with masterminding revenue-generating schemes to enable tvo to compete in the new broadcasting environment.

Bennett Gale, in an interview with Strategy, recalls that several years back another provincial broadcaster, Access Alberta, failed to generate sufficient revenues internally and was subsequently killed off by the provincial government of the day.

Peter Herrndorf, tvo chairman and chief executive officer, in a memo to his employees, says over the next five years the broadcaster will have to double its internally generated net revenue if it is going to make up for the anticipated decline in government funding.

And in an experiment, Herrndorf says tvo will test an incentive system that links compensation packages with the meeting of revenue goals.

Bennett Gale, to whom the new marketing executive will report, says tvo has already lined up a number of revenue-producing marketing initiatives.

She says principal among them is more advertising, adding although tvo now has underwriting arrangements with a number of companies, the broadcaster wants to develop ‘schedule underwriting.’

She says this means an advertiser underwriting the costs of a program, a series or even a day’s schedule would get ‘very low-key [corporate] mentions sprinkled throughout’ whatever part of the tvo line-up the advertiser has underwritten.

However, Bennett Gale is clear the mentions will not be commercials.

‘It’s corporate awareness, not pushing product,’ she says.

In fact, Bennett Gale says even with schedule underwriting it is likely viewers will not notice much that is different about tvo programming.

She says tvo already runs ‘corporate credits’ after the production credits and a voiceover announcing, ‘This show has been brought to you by…’

Bennett Gale says another marketing opportunity for tvo is the greater development of program-associated merchandise.

She says one initiative already under way is a line of toys, clothing and videos spun off from The Polka Dot Door, a perennial younger child favorite at tvo.

Bennett Gale adds Cindy Galbraith, who was on vacation and unavailable for comment at press-time, will become manager, merchandising and product development at tvo, with responsibility for merchandising and licensing.

Also, Galbraith takes on the task of devising strategies for tvo’s entry into the multimedia market in the next 12 to 18 months.

tvo’s new Visa affinity card is already under Galbraith’s wing.

Bennett Gale says elementary interactivity has not been forgotten either.

She says, in six months, tvo should have its own toll-free phone number viewers can call to find out more about programs, schedules, and more.

She says viewers who spot spinoff merchandise they would like to buy from tvo will also be able to use the number to order.

Bennett Gale says tvo tours will also get greater promotion.

She says a little known part of the broadcaster’s marketing, Elwy Yost, film buff extraordinaire and former host of tvo’s Saturday Night at the Movies, was, at press-time, in Los Angeles with a tour of 35 other movie fans.

She says tvo, which has 23% of the instructional tv market in the u.s., is also developing new children’s and youth programs with one eye on their merchandising potential.

She says when it comes to these new programs, the broadcaster is asking itself ‘are they spin-offable?’

One program Bennett Gale mentions, on math for children, comes with workbooks and related material.

She says tvo gets 80% of its funding from government, and 20% is raised by the broadcaster.

However, she says with government cutbacks of 9% to 10% over the last two years – and more likely on the way – tvo wants to be in a position to raise 40% of its revenues.

Bennett Gale says as well as advertising and merchandising, the broadcaster also wants to tap into its membership base.

Although tvo’s membership stands at 68,000, the average annual donation is only $50.

Bennett Gale says tvo wants to create a base of people who give larger sums such as the US$1,000 average donated to Public Broadcasting System stations in the u.s.

tvo even has its eye on what Bennett Gale calls ‘planned giving,’ adding this means a person could have a bequest to tvo written into a will.

tvo’s positioning is as ‘indispensable’ television, says Bennett Gale.

To that end, she says tvo has strengthened its image, has a new logo and has beefed up its public affairs, science and drama programming.

One example of this stronger programming is the thoroughly frank Good Sex Guide, Bennett Gale says.

She calls its recent broadcast a ‘courageous’ decision which drew an exceptional response from viewers.

It costs about $82.5 million a year to run tvo.